The art of building waste equipment

Jan. 1, 2006
IS THERE an art to manufacturing truck bodies and trailers? The answer literally is at the new American Roll-Off plant in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.

IS THERE an art to manufacturing truck bodies and trailers? The answer literally is “yes” at the new American Roll-Off plant in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.

Where else in the industry does the same plant that manufactures truck bodies and equipment also produce massive contemporary artwork and larger-than-life statues of historic events?

The two product lines may not blend as easily as paints on an artist's palette, but that's okay with management. With industrial property in short supply, the company is pleased with its new 35,000-sq-ft production facility, even if artists sometimes use a portion of the building.

Automated Waste Equipment manufactures three major product lines in the Trenton, New Jersey, area. They include American Roll-Off hoists, Hook-All hooklifts, and American Hawk bulk waste cranes.

With an increase in sales last year, the company urgently needed additional production capacity. Having looked extensively throughout the area for additional space, the company was surprised to find a building completely set up for steel manufacturing — only four miles away and adjacent to a picturesque sculptor garden.

“It was not on the market for a week,” says Fred Fisher, vice-president of sales. “We signed a lease right away.”

Artistic license

The 35,000-sq-ft facility met the company's needs. The one stipulation was that artists continue to have access to a portion of the building that was designed specifically for production of large metal sculptures.

So far, it's been a small price to pay for getting the building American Roll-Off wanted in the area that the company calls home. The facility has two main components — a “high bay” area where components are assembled and a second area with much lower ceiling where parts can be fabricated and fitted into a wide array of jigs and fixtures.

The high bay area was designed specifically for sculpture production. It is served by overhead cranes for handling large metal assemblies. Extensive windows and skylights provide the area with excellent ambient lighting, which makes it easier and more pleasant for either an artist or a production worker to produce his specific product. It is this area of the plant that occasionally is used for artwork.

Automated Waste Equipment, the manufacturer of American Roll-Off products, moved into the new building in March. The facility complements existing buildings the company already has — a 21,000-sq-ft installation shop that also includes offices, paint booth, and parts department. A separate 18,000-sq-ft expansion, complete with downdraft paint booth, opened in 1997.

The drive to the new Automated Waste Equipment plant has to be the most artistic in the industry. That's because the company's plant is adjacent to the Grounds for Sculpture park and museum. Many of the 200-plus contemporary sculptures line the street leading to the Automated Waste Equipment plant.

“It is easy to give someone directions,” Fisher says. “Just turn left at the 60-ft-tall Indian on a white horse.”

The 35-acre sculpture park and museum has attracted paid visitors since 1992. The park and the Automated Waste Equipment site share a history that goes back to Colonial days. The property was once part of the New Jersey state fairgrounds. The fair was held in Trenton Township in 1745, the result of a royal charter from King George II that allowed citizens to buy and sell livestock and other merchandise. The charter reportedly provided for the first fair in Colonial America.

The availability of the new facility was a major relief to Automated Waste Equipment. With the additional plant space at its disposal, however, the company has been able to supply an ever-growing dealer base. American Roll-Off products have been shipped to new dealers in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado during the past year.

Demand also has been strong for American Hawk bulk waste cranes. These cranes, when mounted on chassis equipped with custom dump bodies, are ideal for removing debris such as that created by the hurricanes that have ravaged the Gulf Coast. The hooklift business is also brisk.

“There's been a lot of consolidation in this business,” Fisher says. “Where there used to be 15 roll-off hoist manufacturers competing in this market, only 10 remain. The overall market may not be growing all that much, but we are getting a larger piece of it.”

The company's American Roll-Off line offers a variety of quick change body systems. The hoists have capacities ranging from 20,000 pounds for single-axle trucks to 75,000 pounds for trucks equipped with triaxles. The company also offers models for off-highway applications.

Automated Waste Equipment, founded by Eric Fisher, got its start as a distributor of waste equipment in 1972. However, the company soon began manufacturing its own equipment — two-yard compactors followed by custom built six- and eight-yard transfer station compactors.

The company entered the roll-off market in 1982 by introducing its American Rolloff line. The line was expanded throughout the 1980s to include a variety of single axle, tandem axle, and trailer hoists with inside/outside, outside, deadlift, and extendable tail designs.

In 1996, Automated Waste began manufacturing and selling the American Hawk bulk waste crane, a product it acquired from IMT Inc. The American Hawk Crane is designed for curbside collection of bulky items such as brush. It can be mounted on a single-axle truck with a dump body or combined with an American Rolloff hoist or hook lift.

With the addition of the American Hawk product line, Automated Waste opened a second 17,500 square foot manufacturing facility.

“We spent our early years serving the refuse industry,” Fisher says. “Roll-offs still represent a large portion of our business. But it was our hooklift line that got us into the truck equipment market.

“Today quick-change bodies are viewed as a major advancement in our industry. As truck and fuel prices increase, we will see more interest in hooklifts and roll-off hoists, since they can help increase truck utilization rates.”

“The added manufacturing space has definitely aided the manufacture of our Hook-All hooklift product line,” says Warren Kimble, vice-president of manufacturing. “The hooklift has been one of the newer products to hit the truck equipment industry in the last 10 years. By installing a hooklift frame, the customer can easily change truck bodies in seconds. By adding a steel understructure to a standard truck body, any body can be picked up. Bob Adams of Trux Inc recently finished a unit for a local county. The unit included a flatbed, dump body, and a van body to allow the county to haul as well as load and unload voting machines.

“Hooklifts work well when an end user has a seasonal or limited use for a truck application. The ability to switch bodies increases the utilization of the truck. The fact that the body can be set on the ground also is valuable to the end user.”

Today, American Rolloff products are sold through a nationwide distributor network. The company also exports to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.